Author’s draft: All my life I have suffered from chronic skin problems and have tried several products that are said to work wonders on those with skin diseases, without success. It was not until I was properly educated by a compassionate dermatologist about my condition that I was able to seek the right treatment to control the problem.
Natural skin care products have been much sought after to relieve skin problems, from acne, eczema and psoriasis, to simply oily and combination skin types.
A few years ago, Sulie struggled with chronic eczema that led her to quit her job. Unable to find products he could safely use on his sensitive skin, his doctor suggested that he try an alternative in the form of natural ingredients.
Looking into the research, he crafted his own skin care products with ingredients he could easily get from his village garden, Melugu in Simanggang, Sarawak. There, he met a beekeeper who revealed that half of Melugu farmers earned less than RM200 a month with their yield.
So, Sluvi was born thinking about a solution of two axes:
- Create natural skin care products that are safe for people, especially those with sensitive skin;
- Empower farmers by getting ingredients and increasing their income.
Since its launch in 2018, the business has been named one of the winners of the 2018 SaraWak Shell LiveWIRE program and has been supported by MaGIC’s acceleration programs.
Increase in farmers’ incomes by 300%
When she started the social enterprise, Sulie told Vulcan Post that her village farmers weren’t exactly jumping on their cart. “We tried to spread the news through word of mouth, social media, phone calls, but after another month, no one showed up,” Sulie recalled.
“We believe that those farmers did not trust the legitimacy of our company. So we decided to go on the ground and meet the villagers from house to house to tell us what our project consisted of. ”
Although it is time consuming, it is all worth it, as the four families working with Sluvi have currently increased their income by 300%, earning between 800 and 1,000 RM a month. The team also trains its farmers in sustainable farming techniques to mitigate pesticide use on their plantations and increase yields.
These farmers are made up of single mothers, elderly widows, unemployed young adults and fathers in the village areas. “Most of our beneficiaries had no other jobs before and only depended on government financial aid, which is still not enough to support their family,” Sulie explained.
“All this time, they didn’t realize what the natural plants that grew in the garden could do for them, until Sluvi gave them the idea to use them as ingredients in our products. Having more income through Sluvi, life could be better for them.
Less is more
Sluvi’s product line, priced at € 22 each, includes facial and body soap with Stingless Bee Honey, Aloe Green Tea Face Mask, Rice Face Mask and Lemon Coffee Body Scrub. They can also be found in their stores, Shine Pharmacy, Farm Direct Shop and Ranee Artisan Gallery.
However, in 2018, Sulie told Vulcan Post that they originally launched the business of selling 10 products, packaged in zippered paper bags to accommodate their low capital of 800 RM. “We thought that with more variety of products, customers will be excited to browse the items,” Sulie shared.
The plan failed; the paralysis of choice contaminated customers. This lasted 6 months before the team realized that it was a waste to produce so many products as it cost them more money than they earned.
Reducing their product variants has helped them focus more on making sales and profits, while continuously improving the production quality of Sulie’s kitchen. “We learned the hard way,” Sulie said.
So far, they have been able to earn average income of between 12,000 and 15,000 RM per month over the last year. Sulie shared that approximately 60% of customers are from Sabah and Sarawak, 30% are from mainland Malaysia, while the remaining 10% are from foreign consumers who found them on social media.
It still strives to improve the lives of farmers
In three years, Sulie hopes to increase the income of its associated farmers to at least RMR 2,000 per month, through agricultural training and workshops conducted by the Sluvi team. It also wants to impact 15 families and educate more Malaysian consumers about the benefits of natural skin care products.
“Our long-term goal is to create a better agricultural ecosystem in the villages of Sarawak. Through this project, farmers could have a sustainable income, improve their skills and knowledge in agriculture, produce quality natural ingredients and have job training experiences, ”he added.
Sluvi wants to expand its product range and ensure more customers and B2B retailers in the hotel, spa and beauty industry. For her company’s operations, product development and marketing purposes, Sulie intends to raise RM100.
Bottom line: Over time, I found that skin problems are actually a very common problem. Personally, I realized that at least two people in my group of 6 friends suffer from it. And while Sluvi’s products have helped Sulie’s own eczema, he acknowledges that they may not work the same for everyone, which is to be expected of any product in general.
Featured Image Credit: Sulie Abell, CEO of Sluvi